Setting up a MedTech Incubator at Auckland City Hospital
August 16, 2023

Setting up a MedTech Incubator at Auckland City Hospital

Your Journey

Dr Sarvnaz (Sarv) Taherian from Ara Manawa, Te Whatu Ora Auckland’s design and innovation studio, discusses learnings from a recently concluded pilot medtech incubator programme at Auckland Hospital. 

Who we are

Ara Manawa is a relatively young (5 years young!) design and innovation studio embedded within Te Whatu Ora, Te Toka Tumai, Auckland. We are a team of 17 multi-disciplinary researchers, designers, architects, and engineers who work collaboratively across different services in Auckland Hospital and now nationally, thanks to the vision of the current health transformation. Our role is to deeply understand different problem spaces within our health services, products, and spaces - and create novel, future-focused solutions. 

My name is Sarv, and I have had the privilege of being in this team for the past three years, starting off as a designer and now one of the team managers. It’s been one of the greatest joys of my life working in this team. 

Exploring how to enable innovation in the hospital

The work we do is infinitely interesting, and more importantly, meaningful – figuring out how to deliver better health outcomes for our people. One of my main programmes of work has been to explore how we can enable more innovation, particularly the translation of research. In January last year, I was honoured to receive a Health Research Council career development award to focus on understanding how we can enable our clinicians to innovate.  

Our team spoke with over 160 people (nationally and internationally), conducted multiple literature reviews, ran five workshops, developed and tested prototypes for how we could improve engagement and development of innovation skills. This included making engineers and clinicians get creative – we even created poetry from their words.

We had high ambitions to not just create innovation education programmes, but strategies for how our organisation could change to foster innovation. However, the timing wasn’t quite – people were tired from two years of fighting a pandemic, and we are now going through a once in a generation health transformation. 

Designing and launching an incubator to develop innovation skills

Being Ara Manawa, we kept chipping away and by Mid-2022, Te Toka Tumai officially joined as a partner for MedTech iQ Aotearoa, to catalyse medical innovations from clinicians. Now we had even more incentive to move things forward.

Through our collaborative R&D, using human-centred design, we created a 3-month incubator programme for our clinicians. Not the huge organisational change strategy we aspired to; it covered the needs identified in our discovery process:

  • It allowed staff time and space to innovate and bring their ideas to life.
  • Allowed access to seed funding.
  • Provided bespoke, hands-on support to learn and develop capability.
  • Drew on, encouraged, and nurtured collaboration with the wider ecosystem.
  • Had a non-negotiable foundation of diversity, equity, ethics sustainability and inclusion throughout, creating solutions that upheld Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

How it went

We ran the pilot of the incubator from May to July this year and worked with five teams to develop their diverse and novel ideas. The teams were further supported by a network of twenty mentors from across the MedTech ecosystem – amazing people sharing their expertise and wisdom (many of whom were from Callaghan Innovation!). We could not have done it without all the wonderful people that stepped in to support us.

Every week, innovators went through an educational module that taught them about the different stages of the medical and health tech innovation roadmap. These modules were co-delivered by collaboration with our own Māori Health Directorate, Te Tītoki Mataora (the MedTech Research Translator), Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, RespirAq, the Cerebral Palsy Society, and the University of Auckland.

The programme was mostly a success. Participants and collaborators loved the educational modules, and the teams made tremendous progress towards their programme goals. However, clinician busy-ness got in the way and three months was too short of a time frame. No doubt, we learned a lot of lessons for next time.

Incubator participants, Ara Manawa team, and mentors
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